Less than a week after winning another 7 year term in Syria’s “democratic election”, Bashar al-Assad declared a general amnesty for all prisoners within the country.
Syria’s pro-government Al Ikhbariya television station announced Assad would commute some death sentences to life imprisonment, reduce jail terms for many offences and cancel some others altogether. The decree would also give foreigners who entered the country “to join a terrorist group or perpetrate a terrorist act” an amnesty option if they surrendered to authorities within a month. Kidnappers who free their hostages and army deserters would also be covered by the decree. Of course, Assad also insisted the Syrian government had no idea how those chemical weapons wound up in a Damascus suburb… so who knows if he’ll stand by his decree. As for the tens of thousands of jailed opposition supporters, there’s been no word yet on whether or not the amnesty will apply to them – but they probably shouldn’t hold their breath… unless they’re being water boarded in prison. Reuters
The world’s oldest man is no longer. Alexander Imich, the oldest known man on earth, died at the age of 111 Sunday in his Manhattan home. Born February 4, 1903, Imich came to the U.S. after fleeing a Nazi invasion of his native Poland. The retired chemist and parapsychologist lived on New York’s Upper West Side until his death and attributed his long life to never drinking alcohol and a healthy dose of swimming and gymnastics. Guinness is now investigating the claim that 111-year-old Sakari Momoi of Japan is the new world’s oldest man. But neither come close to the world’s oldest woman – 116-year-old Misao Okawa of Japan. Well, they actually came pretty close. Fox News
Obama is sticking by his swap! Speaking at a press conference in Brussels Thursday, President Obama strongly defended his decision to swap five members of the Taliban for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. A national controversy has erupted over whether or not Obama paid too high a price, but according to the president, “no man left behind” trumps “we do not negotiate with terrorists”. “We saw an opportunity and we seized it and I make no apologies for that,” Obama said. “It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind — no matter what,” John Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran, told CNN. As for the 28-year-old former captive, he’s not doing so hot. He is reportedly suffering from disorders affecting his skin after surviving five years of harsh treatment at the hands of his Taliban captors. Word on the street (the New York Times…) says the Taliban kept him in a metal cage in the dark for weeks after he tried to escape. He is also struggling with emotional issues and has yet to contact his parents. And to make matters worse (for Bergdahl), the soldier’s former comrades have charged he was captured by the Taliban in 2009 after deserting his post – an accusation that conservative Republicans and crazed pundits have pounced on. An alleged traitor coming back to America in exchange for FIVE dangerous terrorists?!? Maybe he would be better off back in the Taliban’s metal cage… Raw Story
There’s nothing like putting a positive spin on a military coup! The military junta that seized power in Thailand last month isn’t ready to relinquish power but they are ready to boost national levels of happiness. The army has launched an official campaign that involves free concerts, food, female dancers, and horses for petting (?) in order to “return happiness” to the country after a decade of political upheaval. And what better way to usher in a new wave of happiness than with a happiness song. The song, Return Happiness to Thailand, features such reassuring lyrics as “we offer to take care and protect you with our hearts” and “give us a little more time”. The lovely ballad was penned by the army chief himself, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha and has been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube, making the song far more popular with the Bangkok crowd than the General himself. Raw Story
Shootings, shootings, shootings! A few days after 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra gave in to his “fascination with mass shootings” by shooting up Seattle Pacific University, three people, including two police officers, were killed in a Las Vegas shooting spree. The violence began at a Las Vegas pizza restaurant and ended at a nearby Walmart, where the two alleged gunmen—a married couple believed to be in their twenties—killed a woman in the store and then committed suicide. Witnesses told police the shooters said: “This is a revolution” during their attack. As for the motive, there appears to be a white-supremacy connection to the attacks. Investigators reportedly found white-supremacist and swastika-laden paraphernalia in the couple’s apartment and according to neighbors the couple had a reputation for spouting racist, anti-government views. Strangely enough, the two officers killed in the attack were white. BBC News